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2022 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 8

As we head into weeknight #MACtion, we set the table for who’s up top and who’s at the bottom for the national audience.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Toledo at Buffalo Photo by Joshua Bessex/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 8 did a lot to establish the true top and bottom of the league, as five of the 12 Mid-American Conference football programs found themselves unanimously ranked to their positions.

It’s still a relative free-for-all in the middle of the pack, though, as the yo-yo effect continues to play its machinations in a league where nothing has really been for certain no matter where you look.

With just two games this weekend, and a full month of the weeknight #MACtion slate ahead of us, we take one last look at the Power Rankings before the most wonderful time of the year.

Let’s get into this week’s rankings:

12. Akron Zips (Last Week: 12)

  • Unanimous #12

Akron couldn’t get out of their own way once again in what was, at some point, a very winnable Wagon Wheel Rivalry game against Kent State. The Zips built up an early 10-0 lead before giving up a 24-7 run which put them behind the eight-ball once again, a situation they have ran into several times this year.

It was a result which ultimately stripped away any hope of the postseason, leaving Akron in a spoiler position for the rest of the season. It’s a role they could fill pretty well, as their last three losses have all come by one score or less.

11. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 10, down 1)

  • Unanimous #11

CMU is getting dangerously close to going the Ol’ Yeller treatment after a humiliating loss to BGSU at home sends them to 2-6 overall.

The Chips rotated QBs in a desperate attempt to find a future guy at the position and was down to walk-on Jake Tefalski and starting safety De’Javion Stephney at halfback (who combined for four yards), while the offensive line gave up six sacks (two of which went for fumbles.) The defense did all it could considering, but ultimately could not match up to what BGSU was offering.

Their performance is especially grim in the context of their two victories this season coming against teams who have a combined zero FBS wins.

10. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 11, up 1)

  • High vote: 9 (three)
  • Low vote: 10 (three)
  • Average vote: 10.5

The Broncos jump up a spot after an ugly win against the Miami RedHawks in a game where both sides seemed to be playing not to lose. It was a vital win for the Broncos, who needed to win to keep their postseason hopes alive; three more games down the stretch would get them there.

There’s still a litany of issues, especially on the offensive side of the ball (which had notable struggles with Sean Tyler out of the game), but the defense has proven to be a solid unit capable of keeping the team competitive in games where maybe they shouldn’t be. It’s a bit of a surprise they’re this low, but that’s probably more long-term pessimism than anything.

9. Miami RedHawks (LW: 6, down 3)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 10 (three)
  • Average vote: 9

Another week, another extreme Miami ranking.

The RedHawks surprised everyone by bringing back Brett Gabbert for the contest in a game they needed to win, but it wasn’t meant to be, as the RedHawks struggled immensely in moving the ball down the field, not converting a third down until the fourth quarter.

Being up top of WMU despite a loss is perhaps more an indication of Miami’s former MAC East chase, or, alternatively, an indication voters want to see more of this team with Gabbert back under center.

8. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 5, down 3)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.83

The Huskies came up against a side which was, by all accounts, a team which should have been fairly dominant in the Ohio Bobcats, but managed to take them down to the wire with their third-string QB Justin Lynch at the helm in what was ultimately a one-score loss.

The Huskies are 2-6, with their four games finishing either in one-score rallies or multiple-score blowouts, with no true middle ground to be found. It’s fascinating how this group is so polarizing from a week-to-week basis, and how their performance still largely looks the same regardless of who is sitting at QB. They need to win out just to get to the postseason, which is going to be a tall ask for a roster which has struggled to be healthy.

7. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 9, up 2)

  • High vote: 5 (twice)
  • Low vote: 8 (twice)
  • Average vote: 6.5

The Bowling Green Falcons have flown up the charts over the last two weeks, due in part to their recent run of form, riding a domineering defense to three league wins, setting BGSU up for a potential MAC East title run if a few games on the schedule fall their way.

They shut the door with authority on a lousy CMU team this past Saturday, with eight tackles-for-loss, six sacks, an interception and three fumbles (all recovered), including one which was returned for a touchdown.

Yes, their three league wins are against Akron, Miami and CMU, with WMU next on the list, but you play whoever is in front of you, and they’ve shown they’re up to the task right now.

6. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 4, down 2)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.83

The Cardinals suffered a tough loss to Eastern Michigan in a game which could have gone differently if it weren’t for a few self-made mistakes. EMU is a very good team, so the Cards shouldn’t feel too down, but their propensity to play games closer than necessary is starting to catch up with them.

John Paddock is near the top of the conference in interceptions and had two more picks in this one, with the team turning over an additional fumble to contribute to the snapping of Ball State’s three-game winning streak.

There’s still time to get back to their winning ways, with much of their bigger games remaining on the schedule.

5. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 7, up 2)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 6 (three)
  • Average vote: 5.33

The Flashes got away with one against the Zips, to be certain, but there are signs of encouragement moving forward.

They had to navigate this game with a true freshman backup QB in Devin Kargman after an injury to Collin Schlee surfaced in the leadup to Saturday’s game, which meant having to calibrate the offense for a little bit in the early going. Once Kargman got going, so did the running game, which effectively gashed Akron as the game went on.

The defense is still an issue, as they gave up a late Akron run to make the box score closer, but the Flashes could at least play their way into a guaranteed bowl game if they keep playing at this pace.

4. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 8 up 4)

  • High vote: 4 (three)
  • Low vote: 6 (twice)
  • Average vote: 4.66

The Eagles have been a team of intrigue for the whole of the 2022 season, with uneven performances followed by remarkable ones on what feels like a week-to-week basis. For every upset win against Arizona is a frustrating slog against UMass. For every destruction of WMU is a pantsing against NIU. EMU is just that sort of team, but they’ve ridden it to a 5-3 overall tally.

This week was a hard-fought defensive effort to take away a 20-16 victory against Ball State. This team has found ways to survive in most every game this year, and that says something about how disciplined and cool they have been.

A sixth win against the division leader Toledo would cement EMU as the team to beat in the West division, and secure the MAC’s first bowl bid of the season. It’s a significant, stakes-filled weekend which has the potential to turn the Eagles’ program fortunes around.

3. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 3)

  • Unanimous #3

The Ohio Bobcats, much like the Eagles in the West, have been a very pleasant surprise in the East, playing to a 3-1 league record so far in the season. The improvements in all three phases have been both vast and noticeable.

It certainly wasn’t something which was anticipated from a group who limped to a 3-9 finish in 2021, that’s for sure.

This week, the ‘Cats were given NIU’s best shot and survived it. It was a balanced effort, as both the offense and defense showed good flashes of performance, with Kurtis Rourke once again leading several effective scoring drives down the field, while the defense kept NIU out of the endzone until the late going of the game, forcing three field goal attempts.

Can they catch Buffalo asleep on a weeknight and wreak havoc on the standings? We’ll have to see.

2. Toledo Rockets (LW: 1, down 1)

  • Unanimous #2

Toledo did the one thing they couldn't do on Saturday: lose at home to a fellow undefeated league team.

The sky was the limit for the Rockets in a game which Toledo could have built upon to finish the season strong and show the league they were a serious contender for the title. Instead, they looked extremely mortal, giving up a huge 24-point run in the fourth quarter while also turning the ball over four times in an embarrassing loss.

Injury was added to insult when Dequan Finn was hit hard on a last desperate heave (which was intercepted) to try and tie the game for overtime. His status will be up in the air.

There’s still a chance to sneak away with the division title if they can beat EMU on the road this week, and they’re a talented enough team to brush off such a loss and win out the rest of the slate, but if they don’t... it will stir up familiar questions once again and cause a lot of “Same Ol’ Rockets” talk once again.

1. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 2, up 1)

  • Unanimous #1

Well, well, well.

When Buffalo lost to Holy Cross, they fell to 10th in the Week 2 Power Rankings, an understandable ranking after losing to an FCS team at home on a Hail Mary to continue a seven-game losing streak. It was a gut-punch moment, which required a response if they had any hopes of being competitive in 2022.

Answer the call they did, as Buffalo is now in the midst of a five-game winning streak and a 6-1 streak overall since that Week 2 loss, holding a 4-0 conference mark and looking well on the way to keeping that mark gong with a strong defense and a big play offense centered on an effective running game.

They effectively control their own destiny if they beat Ohio this weekend, as beating them would give Buffalo tiebreakers over both Bowling Green and Ohio, who are directly behind them on the charts.

Anonymized ranking

Akron Ball State Buffalo Bowling Green Central Mich Eastern Mich Kent State Miami NIU Ohio Toledo Western Mich
12 6 1 5 11 4 7 8 9 3 2 10
12 7 1 5 11 4 6 10 8 3 2 9
12 5 1 8 11 4 7 10 6 3 2 9
12 6 1 8 11 5 4 9 7 3 2 10
12 7 1 6 11 5 4 10 8 3 2 9
12 4 1 7 11 6 6 8 9 3 2 10

Did we get it right? Did we get it wrong? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below, or at us on Twitter @HustleBelt!